Tom lies back in his quarters, bloodied and in pain. Cassy arrives with water and tends to Tom, moving him onto cool, wet sheets. Cassy tells Tom to stop resisting Legree, as it will only end in Tom’s destruction. He responds that he must try, otherwise they all will become inhuman and cruel to their fellow slaves, like Sambo and Quimbo.
Cassy has been “broken” by Legree; she no longer hopes for freedom, nor is she able to believe in God. Tom, however, argues that to abandon his faith would be to abandon everything. His faith not only keeps him alive—it keeps alive the hope that there is something beyond the slaves’ present suffering.
Cassy reads to Tom the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion. Tom says that the Lord challenges us with suffering but still loves us, despite all. Cassy tells her life story, beginning with her youth. She was born on a luxurious estate to a free white man and a slave woman and was educated well, yet when the white owner died Cassy was listed as property and bought by a young man.
An obvious parallel between the trials (or “passion”) of Jesus Christ and Tom’s trials at the Legree plantation. It is interesting to note that Legree’s temptations of Tom—his desire to offer Tom power over his fellow slaves—mirrors the temptations the devil presented to Jesus in the wilderness.
Her owner took her as a lover and said that marriage between them was legally impossible, but that they could live as though married. Cassy believed him and they had two children, Henry and Elise. But her lover met a white woman, fell for and married her, and sold Cassy and their two children. The man who bought her again took her as a lover, and claimed that he had tricked the previous lover into falling in love with the white woman so as to abandon Cassy.
Cassy’s story is all-too-common. Though her marriage to a white man resembled typical white marriage in all ways, she had no actual legal rights and her husband was eventually convinced that his life would be easier if he married a white woman. Cassy’s children are torn from her, initiating her withdrawal from life.
After witnessing her new owner treating Henry harshly, Cassy “snaps” and falls into a swoon. When she awakes she finds she has been sold to a brothel. There she meets a man, Stuart, who buys her, but Henry cannot be found and Elise is owned by someone who does not wish to sell for a reasonable price. She has a child with Stuart but, despairing of her situation, kills it with laudanum, because she does not wish to bring it into a life of bondage. Cassy says that, for this reason, she can no longer believe in God’s charity, but Tom asks her to try to do so, and Cassy leaves for the evening.
Cassy’s crime, the murder of her child, is of course a violation of God’s law and of the universal motherhood the novel has established. But it is not so unthinkable considering Cassy’s circumstances, and Tom is convinced that Cassy can be saved—that she can be returned to Christian belief, if she only chooses to value her life and work for her freedom.